View Full Version : Before buying an E32 - some tips

01-31-2005, 09:32 AM
A collection of good write ups (excerpts) from various boards and people from various countries (different problkems sometimes)

I thought it might be good to have some information here for people interested to buy an E32, asking what to check and what breaks.
As I am a lazy guy I have copied something:
But, since you asked.. an 89 750 suffers from all the common e32 maladies as well as a few that are particularly its own..

Starting at the front..

Front suspension is a problem area.. Drive at all speeds including highway and feel for shimmies or wobbles. An entire front end rebuild can set you back a thousand
real quick. 750's are heavier and more powerful and therefore harder on the suspension. Look for uneven tire wear, especially cupping or scalloping. Its typical for
the inside of front tires to wear first an all these cars. Its the factory camber setting.

Engine should start instantly, run very smoothly and quietly. long cranking and rough idle can be intake manifold leaks and/or fuel pump or injector problems. These
engines are very complex and will cost you surprisingly more to fix than a six or even a v8 and not just any mechanic will be up to the task of a drive by wire v12
with more electronics than the space shuttle. The valves are hydraulic so don't let somebody tell you they need adjusted to reduce valve noise like you can the 6 cyl.
A Motor rebuild will easilly cost you more than the purchase price of the car. Fuel pumps.. (Yes Virginia, there are two) should be replaced by 150K if they have
not gone out already. That'll be $600 in parts please.. What? Ohhh! You want them INSTALLED??

Make sure all lights, accessories and power functions work properly. Seat back twist is very common on a car this old. Seat function motors can also go out. The
LKM module is a frequent casualty as is the CCM module. On Board computer is a frequent failure, and instrument cluster bulbs require dropping the steering
column or removing the air bag/steering wheel and there are something like 24 bulbs.. my dealer charged me 5$ a piece for the bulbs.

Under the car, motor mounts, trans mounts, trans and rear end seals and drive shaft center bearing and U-joints are all likely failures. The drive shaft is not
rebuildable and will set you back close to a grand if you are not careful.

The trans should have no leaks and shift very smoothly and flawlessly. The trans can cost up to $5K to replace so pay careful attention. Fluid should be clear (red)
and clean and if is smells burnt, then thats what you will be if you buy it!

Rear swingarm bushings can wear, causing rear squirming when goosing the throttle in manual shift mode. Clunking in the rear end can be loose suspension mounts
or broken bolts on the carrier.

The 750's are iL's and most have hydraulic load leveling (LAD). This system can develop leaks and is complex and expensive to repair. Also makes strut
replacement more costly.

A car this old will likely need struts, maybe all 4, if not also springs. And exhaust, Ahh yes the lovely exhaust.. That system is VERY expensive to replace and I have
seen quotes for a thousand just for the parts not including installation.

Interior, look for wear, and cracking in the leather, especially in the drivers seat and arm rest. BMW wants $900 for a new leather cover for one seat.. Then it needs
to be installed. I just had a phone quote from an upholstery shop for $2000 to replace just the seating areas on two front seats.

The Heat and AC needs to work perfectly. The controller is a notorious problem in these cars and if the AC doesn't work, don't believe him that it just needs
charged.. The heater cores/pipes develop leaks, (leaking coolant sometimes into the drain there, but sometimes onto your carpet) especially in older e32's (like an
89!). This is a BEAR of a job and requires the nearly complete disassembly of most of the interior and dash just to get to it! MUCHO Labor costs!

As always, a mechanic along is good, but you would be MUCH better off leaving a deposit and taking the car to a BMW dealer for a complete inspection. These
cars are very complicated and unique and it will be WELL worth the money to get a thorough inspection so you know where ALL the problems are and can
consider that in your purchase decision.

Remember, this was a $70K car 13 years ago and the maintenance and repair costs will be commensurately far and above your basic Chevy or Buick! These cars in
their "mature" years are not for the faint of heart or light of wallet! And I am sure I have left a few things out.

Most imprtant of all is how and where the car was maintained. If was dealer maintained till the day you bought it and all records are available, then thats best. If
Ronnie Ramjet had it and thought it was cool to drag race Chevelles with his V-12 but never changed the oil for 2 years, Run don't walk away and keep looking!
You would probably spend more than the purchase price in maintainence the first year! Buy with your head and your calculator, not with your heart. The purchase
price is just the beginning. Now you have to repair it if it breaks. These cars are addictive (ask any one of us) but sometimes love hurts!

Sooo If you "Ain't Skeered" yet... God Speed and good luck! And welcome to the world of the e32 7's. These cars are like a certain woman I know (who will
remain un-named). A true thing of beauty, but very high maintenance and demanding of a lot of attention... But she can perform like no other, and OOOOHHHHHH
BABY!!! what she can do for you when you two are alone!!!

Philly Bob (on roadfly)
Here is the one for the 740:


740 Common Problems

Engine / Drive Train
Nikasil Engine block
Transmission Valve body
Transmission fluid is very expensive, $25 per liter
Transmission Flex Disk (Normal wear item)
Transmission mounts (Normal wear item)
Oxygen sensors (Normal wear item)
Idle control valve (usually just dirty)

Front end components (these are heavy cars)
LAD, Self leveling system. Installed on all iL cars in the US.
LAD Accumulators (inexpensive), or Struts (Expensive)
Brakes & brake disks (these are heavy cars)
Sway bar links

Cosmetic / Interior
Seat back twist (or other seat position problems)
Seat wiggle
Door and windshield seals

The transmission is sealed with no way to check with a dipstick. The fluid (Shell LA 2634) should be replaced at least every 100k miles. If not already done, this can cost over $300. The valve body can be a DIY job, the kit costs about $100. If it was done once, it should be good to go. If you notice any shifting problems with the car, offer a lot less for it. A rebuilt tranny will cost at least $2000 plus installation.

If it has a Nikasil engine, stay away unless you get a great price. Engine replacements can cost $4000 or more. Make sure it is an Alusil block.

The LAD is a great system but the struts are expensive. The system usually holds up pretty well, but you may need to do adjustments. A SUSPENSION LEVELING warning message usually means the system is out of adjustment. Use it for a barganing chip for a lower price if it shows up.

The IHKA (Heater/Air Conditioner) system is complex and there have been a lot of problems with the older cars (88-90). It has not seemed to have caught up to the newer cars yet, but I could be wrong. The microfilter needs to be replaced on schedule.

This is a partial list but I think it covers most of the big items.
All prices are in US dollars. As always, get it checked by a competent BMW mechanic before you buy and make sure it has good maintenance history records.

Eric Hall
1994 740iL Black/Tan 80k
Albany, OR
I own as you know a 93 750i. even if I knew every part of the editorial above prior to buying, I still would. Like I pointed out to a UK mag that ran an article on the e32, the way to keep such a technological marvel running is constant care. We know it will break but if you are sympathetic with the way you treat her she will not bite too hard. Plus ebay is a natural source of parts accessories and all manner of goodies!
in a year, the only fault is a broken drivers side coil. Replacing both with factory spec items and boge dampers and having the front end pulled poked and prodded to see what else was in a rough way revealed nothing!
The backend was built by a hydraulics expert about two years ago and again apart from now soft feeling rear coils works very effectively. I have the slightly rough idle and know that if I convince myself it is partially blocked injectors I will not rip off the whole top end of the engine and then panic and fail at getting it all back together! I may be mad but I am not that stupid, I know my limitations, I feel an invite to Uncle Rob coming on for that weekend bash!
I am currently however developing an altogether more dynamic approach to this repair and once I try it I will let you know but think keyhole surgery meets non invasive homeopathy and you will get my line of thought.
Now, on Rich's point, corrosion,
I live in an area where salt is used from now (ish!) to late Feb, so rot is a highly visible and deeply annoying factor, the wings at arch lips and leading edge, the jacking points under the plastic covers, the point he so correctly mentions in the front edge of the rear arch is boys and girls the big wake up call to us all.
The tub is PVC sealed and requires only careful cleaning and inspection, (Mine had a small sill area damaged area below the drivers door), this has been cleared up ground back treated painted and waxoyled, perfect.
Another weak area that is easy to mainrtain are brake hydraulic and fuel pipes, a wire brush and hammerite with waxoyl for dessert worked a reat and raised no eyebrows come MOT time.
As it then follows the rear cross member swing arms arb, struts front suspension arms arb crossmember all got the black gloss treatment and voila a car ready to go at the turn of the key every time and ready to cope with what ever the weather has is store.
Just remeber there are far worse cars out there newer more complex costlier and less reliable.
93 750i (U.K. E32 Register)
This is a nice one for the 735i/730i:


BMW 750i '88 -- Porsche 928S '86
(U.K. E32 Register)